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Michigan quarterback talks about the team's slow start and what coach Jim Harbaugh told the team following the comeback win. Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News

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Evanston, Ill. — These are the moments Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson lives for, when he and his team are tested and everything is on the line.

Patterson helped lift the 14th-ranked Wolverines from a 17-point deficit and led the winning touchdown drive with just more than four minutes left. He directed an 11-play, 67-yard drive in which he ran for nine yards on a critical third-and-6, found tight end Zach Gentry over the middle for a 22-yard gain and then watched as Karan Higdon scored for the second time against the Wildcats, this time for five yards.

“They gave up a lot of stuff over the middle and I thought we adjusted in the second half,” Patterson said. “Just put it in the vicinity and that’s the type of guy Zach Gentry is. He made a big play coming up with that ball.”

Michigan won, 20-17, at Ryan Field on Saturday to improve to 4-1 (2-0 Big Ten) and Patterson was a major reason why.

He thrives in the big moment.

“Just being the kind of competitor I am you always have that sour taste. I had a chance against Notre Dame to do that same thing,” Patterson said, referring to his late fumble at Notre Dame with a chance to direct the winning drive. “I really harped on ball security this last drive, and I just trusted my teammates and just took it one play at time knowing that we can’t get it all done in one play. I’m just so proud of my brothers on this team and on defense. So proud of our fans who did a great job of showing up and cheering.

“It’s such an exhilarating feeling. You play for these moments.”

More: 'Phantom' holding call against Higdon has Wolverines griping

Patterson finished 15-for-24 passing for 196 yards and also ran seven times for 31 yards.

He was asked if he feels he’s at his best in these late-game situations.

“Yeah, you know, I try to be my best at all times,” Patterson said. “I love when the moment’s big. Even when I fail, I love that situation because you have to fail to succeed. I just love the process. I wouldn’t want to fail or succeed with anybody else but my teammates right there in the locker room.”

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Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh gave Patterson a high grade after the game, and said he played with poise and led the offense flawlessly.

“I thought he stepped up big, took the game in his hands in a lot of ways in the second half,” Harbaugh said.

With 10:05 left in the game, Patterson began the winning drive with a 9-yard pass to fullback Jared Wangler and three plays later he completed a 13-yard pass to Gentry that moved Michigan into Northwestern territory at 41-yard line. Seven plays later, Higdon scored the winning touchdown.

“I saw a guy with poise, confidence and belief,” Higdon said of Patterson during the final drive. “A lot of faith when you’re working with somebody like that.”

Did he elevate his play?

“I definitely think so,” Higdon said. “He did a great job. So proud of him. He’s a fighter.”

Patterson leads by action but with the team down 17 points at Northwestern, he found himself talking to all this teammates — not just those on offense — to let them know he wasn’t going to stop until they won.

“It depends on what kind of guy you are and how you operate,” he said. “I’m not a big rah-rah guy, but when it’s time to really lock in and talk to your teammates, I’m that guy that gets in the special teams huddle and goes down on defense and say, ‘Hey, I got you. Just get a few more stops.’”

And that’s what Patterson did.

achengelis@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @chengelis

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